Are there still stakeholders in your community, perhaps fearful parents or reluctant faculty members, who don’t understand why schools need to change? Here are some tools for you. In my upcoming new book (which is out for peer review and feedback right now), I explore both what is inevitable in the transformation of education in the next 20 years, and what major levers will create those changes at scale. But what is really pushing a radical, probably quantum change in this thing we call “school”? Is it just the flattened world and a changing basket of jobs that our students will find when they leave our nest? No. I think there are four major drivers that are all coming into alignment within a very narrow period of human history:
- First, because we must. Education is meant to prepare young people for their adult years, and the world that our young people will engage over their lifetimes is already very different from that of former generations, and is likely to become even more different as the rate of change accelerates. The tectonic shifts from the Industrial to the Information Age require our students to be able to think, not just know. If education does not prepare our students to deal with this future, then the value proposition of equitable, broad, rich, liberal arts education, let alone one focused on passing standardized fill-in-the-bubble tests, becomes decreasingly attractive to value-conscious consumers.
- Second, because we want to. I, and many others, some of whom I interviewed for the book, have asked thousands of educators, parents, students, and community stakeholders what they want education to look like today and in the future, and there is tremendous agreement. We want a system that is more equally balanced between academic and non-cognitive skills that prepare students to lead happy, healthy, and successful lives. If our traditional schools do not offer the community of consumer stakeholders what they want, they will find it somewhere else.
- Third, because we know better. Past evidence on how children learn has been the work of psychologists and educational researchers. They are now joined by cognitive neuroscientists armed with brain-mapping technology that proves how learning takes place at its most foundational levels. We can see how engagement takes place within the brain, and can connect that engagement to better levels of cognitive development and long-term learning. We can now prove that deeper learning is better learning, and hopefully get beyond the idea that doing well on a bubble test somehow indicates academic success.
- Fourth, because we can. Technology is never the driver of transformation but it is always a critical enabler. Like the rise of technologies that fueled the agrarian, industrial, and information revolutions, holographic and 3D virtual technologies are already forming the basis of a global socio-neural network with the capacity for deep, authentic, relationship-based learning that does not require the traditional school operating system. As I wrote in my recent ISTE article, these new technologies are the first to really bridge the gap between transactional and relational learning, differentiated for each student.
The great part about these four drivers is that they all include the word “we”! Yes, the world imposes harsh realities on all of us, but we have control over how we respond.